Midsummer Knight's Dream Ends
by Avash Kalra/Staff Writer
ROCHESTER, N.Y. "We look back at our goal and see David Leggio in net just making save after save. You feel confident that he's going to make them all night."
So said Nick Dodge, the team captain for the Clarkson Golden Knights, following the opening game of the NCAA tournament pitting the Knights against Massachusetts. And with the way Leggio was playing, it certainly seemed that way.
In a classic goaltenders' duel between Leggio and UMass's Jon Quick, Leggio made every save he reasonably could, keeping the Knights in the game as long as possible. But for the third consecutive year, the Knights conclude their season by suffering a crushing overtime defeat, this time by a 1-0 score.
Still, Friday afternoon's eventual loss to Massachusetts was supposed to be different.
"Our goal from the onset was to get to the Frozen Four," said Clarkson coach George Roll matter-of-factly.
As last season ended, and as the summer progressed, the Knights certainly knew they would have a chance to get there, especially with a talented group of junior class members such as Nick Dodge, Shawn Weller and Steve Zalewski. A group that had developed playoff experience over their first two years in Potsdam and who were making a name for themselves as some of the most potent scorers in the ECAC.
Their dream to go to the Frozen Four seemed well within the realm of possibility, with Roll describing the team as "on a mission from the start of the year."
However, the Minutemen defensemen managed to keep the Knights forwards off the scoresheet, thus adding to the pressure on Leggio between the pipes. And the Williamsville N.Y. native was up to the challenge, entering Friday's game needing 35 saves to set the Clarkson school record for saves in a season.
Leggio was able to reach that milestone, even surpassing it by making 37 saves. The 37th save was particularly impressive, sliding from post to post in overtime to keep the game scoreless.
A second later, the save was rendered relatively meaningless, as Minutemen senior Kevin Jarman fired the rebound over the sprawling Leggio, sending the Minutemen on to the national quarterfinals while putting an end to the reigning ECAC champions' season.
"It hasn't set in that it's over," said a quiet Leggio after the game. "It just happened so quick. [This season], we did some great things and won the [ECAC tournament] championship. But unless you win the last one, it's very tough to end the season... no matter what."
Leggio's 37 stops were matched by 33 saves from his counterpart, Quick, at the other end of the ice. And it was clear from the start that the goaltenders were going to be the stars of the game.
"Both goalies were on the top of their games," said Roll. "Both guys looked in control all night, and you just knew it was going to be one of those games where the first one that goes in was going to be the winner."
For Leggio and the Knights, the bar has clearly been raised, even from only two years ago. When Leggio and his classmates were freshmen, the Knights won only 13 games. This year, they won 25 — the first time during George Roll's five year tenure at Clarkson that the Knights have reached the 20 win plateau.
Said Roll, "I think we've come a long way as a program. It's a credit to those guys in the locker room. We certainly fell short [of our goal], but I think in a couple of days, we'll look back on it and be very proud of what we accomplished this year.
"Our goal from the onset was to get to the Frozen Four, but it might be the impetus for us for next year, remembering what happened tonight."